The Art of Merchandising

6 Jan 2017

When selling to customers, the key is to engage with them from the moment they enter your shop. A good merchandising strategy can act as a visual road map for customers as they walk through. It can also influence how they perceive products by styling a piece in a way that makes it seem more luxurious than it would without context. So how can you do this as an independent brand? Let’s take a look.

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Merchandise strategically

Every business owner knows the importance of understanding their audience. The better you know your customer, the closer you can get to visually merchandising your boutique to create the perfect retail experience. From where they go to on the weekends to what music they listen to, these are facts you can use when setting up your space.

To learn more about how to leverage this knowledge, we spoke with Shopbop’s Divisional Merchandising Director, Alice Kim. Alice, who calls Shopbop “customer-obsessed”, says the merchandising process starts far before they start shooting pieces and curating looks. At market, in fact, she thinks about how a look can be visually styled to fit not only within their client's style but with the brand’s as well. “It is not just about trends, it’s about functionality and versatility too,” Kim says.

Mix it up

When your customers are browsing your store, a good store design will give them a reason to linger longer. Visual merchandisers and store designers will tell you to mix and match price points, break up similar items with other products, and place products at various heights to entice them to stay. Different lighting and groupings of goods will catch your customer’s eyes. It’s all about balance when it comes to merchandising your shop.

Ali Greenfield of the contemporary jewelry line, Vita Fede, talked to us about the importance of strategizing merchandise display cases. When products are positioned in way that allows the customer to envision it on them, it will increase sales. Ali says putting larger, statement pieces in the back of the case will draw their attention as well. “The goal is to keep customers interested. Having pieces of various sizes and styles, keeps them engaged and ensures they will look at all the merchandise in the case” Greenfield says.

Engage the five senses

Effective retail merchandising isn’t just about visual stimulation. Sensory marketing studies in the past decade have shown that engaging all five senses is a crucial component to creating an exemplary retail experience.

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Certain colors incite specific psychological responses, so before painting a wall, do some research on what feelings are invoked by it. For instance, blue makes people feel at peace and comfortable, making it an inviting color for most spaces. Want to trigger creativity? Green is the perfect fit for this. Adding splashes of colors can also attract customers as well. Pink for example can create a calming atmosphere, while red attracts the eye and reduces analytical thinking (sparking a higher interest to buy).


Aromatic triggers are one of the best ways to engage your customer. Diffusing the proper scent has proven to create a sense of brand loyalty. A study was done for the New Balance store launching in Beijing with two distinct scents, wood and leather. These two aromas were used to reflect US heritage to the new Chinese market in order to portray the American brand. This technique led to an increase in sales when compared to other similar stores due to the nostalgic atmosphere they felt the scent provided.


They say the best way to get to anyone’s heart is through food. Whether you’re an eatery or a retail shop, providing customers a bite of the best seller or a drink to go along with their shopping can really pay off. AYR recently opened a shop in Soho where they offer complimentary wine to all shoppers who enter. Or Breads Bakery in Union Square hands out samples of their daily pastry specials to visitors. This is a great strategy to connect with your customers and create an inviting shop. It not only makes them happy, but can lead to an higher sales as well as more brand loyalty.


Music truly sets the atmosphere for any good shop. It allows you to illustrate your brand through other artists. Starbucks is a good example of a company who has created great brand soundtrack for their stores. In fact, it has been so successful that they’ve made millions in revenue from selling their mixes. If you play the right tunes, it will create an environment that keeps your customers around and coming back for more.


The reason brick and mortar works so well is simply due to touch. Consumers want to feel the merchandise prior to purchasing. Not only does it close deals, it can act as a design element throughout the store. Place soft sweaters on lush, comfy chairs or mix textures to draw the customer in. This final sense will be the selling factor when it comes down to it.

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Make it happen

Whether you’re looking to switch it up or are starting from scratch, merchandising can go a long way when creating your store’s design. Take a look at our spaces and showcase your idea in NYC.